Editor Jul 5, 2021 10:38:45 AM 4 min read

Why are beavers ecosystem engineers?

Beavers, as ecosystem engineers, have the ability and skill to restore and create native woodlands and new wetlands. It further improves the habitats of many different species that live in the affected ecosystems,

Beavers change the habitats in which they live significantly. They do so by damming the courses of water, coppicing shrub and tree species, and digging canal systems.

How do beavers work as ecosystem engineers?

Beavers create and restore important wetland ecosystems. The habitats they create support the development and growth of young animals by offering sources of food and shelter. 

Other reasons why they are called ecosystem engineers are given below.

  • Filter Pollution: Many farmers in America use over twenty million tons of various synthetic fertilizers. When such chemicals go to the sea, they can create dead zones, with low-oxygen, and with marine life. From the source, beavers' damming activities trap runoff and encourage bacteria which converts nitrate to harmless gas. This is how a system of beaver-made dammed ponds can avert ecological disasters. Beavers can cut up to forty-five percent of agricultural pollution from spreading further downstream, keeping healthier estuaries.
  • Store Groundwater: The beaver ponds have a weight that forces the water into the ground. It recharges aquifers that are depleting at a rapid pace. According to scientists, beaver ponds raised the water tables of the Rockies by half a foot. Ponds hold around ten times as much water belowground as above it.
  • Prevent Floods: Many people associate beavers with flooding. However, they can actually prevent seriously catastrophic floods by spreading, storing, and slowing water. During rainstorms in flood-prone England, around thirteen beaver dams reduce runoff by thirty per cent.
  • Create Wetlands: Wetlands are extremely important and diverse habitats for a wide range of life. In arid regions, they support eighty per cent of species despite themselves covering two per cent of the landscape. Beavers build dams that submerge meadows, broaden streams, and act as wetland engineers by raising water tables.
  • Stores carbon: Forests take carbon from their surrounding atmosphere and store it in the wood. Similarly, beavers store carbon as organic sediment, which settles down in the bottom of their ponds. Before the decimation of the beaver population in Rocky National Mountain Park, they stored around 2.7 million tons of carbon. 
  • Sustains salmon: Salmon are important to the economies and culture of many northern countries. Beavers create cool pools and side slow-water channels where fry can feed, rest, and obtain shelter from predators. In California, scientists are building artificial beaver dams.
  • Benefits Birds: Beaver ponds furnish habitats for a number of species. They include otters, trout, and boreal toads. The most significant beneficiaries among them are birds. For instance, many duck species breed more successfully in the wetlands created by beavers. Further down the line, songbirds perch in willow stands irrigated by raised groundwater.

 

Beavers, therefore, act as ecosystem engineers by changing the abundance and distribution of different plants and animals. They create a diverse habitat that benefits different species. And they counteract pollution by storing carbon and filtering water.

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